Saturday, January 28, 2023

Wilmington-based modeling startup Meredith Media is moving up in the fashion world

Former Army weapons specialist-turned-entrepreneur Cameron Meredith is growing a pipeline of Wilmington models to the fashion world

Meredith Modeling, which started as part of UNCW's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, recently took part in its second Fashion Week. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY CAMERON MEREDITH)
Meredith Modeling, which started as part of UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, recently took part in its second Fashion Week. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY CAMERON MEREDITH)

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Cameron Meredith hustles through the door of the UNC Wilmington Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) in blue jeans, T-shirt, sunglasses and well-worn baseball cap, looking a tiny bit like Darius Rucker, trimmed beard and all. Slinging off his backpack and offering a firm handshake, Meredith apologizes for his slight tardiness, explaining he’d just come from a photo shoot in Carolina Beach, a location whose older throwback buildings provide a favorite spot for this fashion photographer and his “editorial retro” style of photography.

Cameron Meredith is leading his Wilmington startup to into the Fashion World (Port City Daily photo/ DAVID DEAN)
Cameron Meredith is leading his Wilmington startup to into the Fashion World (Port City Daily photo/ DAVID DEAN)

Developing his own unique shooting style fits Meredith, an enthusiastic entrepreneur whose young business, Meredith Media Group, is a local Wilmington startup blazing its own unique path to success.

 
The Carolina Beach shoot comes on the heels of Meredith’s return from New York City, where the roughly 2-year-old Meredith Media Group took part in the world-famous Fashion Week for the second year in a row.
 
“This year was more hands on for myself and the team I brought, with one of our hair artists working for a designer and another model acting as my assistant, helping with the design and functionality of another runway show,” he said. 
 
All told, Meredith brought five Wilmington-based models with him — Lydia, Brittani, Veronique, Denise and Cara — to Fashion Week, two who actually hit the runway and the rest helping and assisting.

A different kind of agency 

Meredith chooses to promote women empowerment and natural beauty by working with models who look like “normal people” and not the traditional, unrealistic runway models of the past.  
 
“I don’t want to work with your tall, 6’2, 100-pound models, and that’s actually not what the modeling world wants right now. It’s really catering more to the ‘she-looks-like-me’ type of models, the realistic looking women,” he explains.
 

Meredith Media Group has found a niche not only with the types of models the company works with, but with the fact that, well, there really are limited options in the area. According to Meredith, there are no other modeling agencies in eastern North Carolina, although he does not consider his company an agency.

 
“There’s a negative stigma attached to ‘agencies’ and we do not nickel-and-dime our models to death like many. For instance, most agencies charge the client a fee, but then charge the model a percentage as well, then they charge the model for traveling expenses and some even hair and makeup. We eliminated all of those extra fees, and if the model is not paid a certain amount we do not charge the model anything, i.e., the normal 10 percent fee,” he says.
 
The geographic positioning of Meredith Media Group and a bit of networking both played a role in its early success. Some quality work for a business impressed a colleague, who referred Meredith to Helzberg Diamonds. The 100-plus-year-old retailer with over 200 stores in 36 states took his advice, and a photo shoot in South Carolina ensued, complete with long days starting at 8 a.m. and lasting until 10 at night.

Learning to fly

Meredith Modeling, which started as part of UNCW's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, recently took part in its second Fashion Week. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY CAMERON MEREDITH)
Meredith Modeling, which started as part of UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, recently took part in its second Fashion Week. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY CAMERON MEREDITH)

The long hours were one part of the modeling business Meredith had to learn:  the need for diplomacy, having to deal with models showing up late for shoots, working with individuals who treat modeling more as a hobby than a profession were all elements of the professional Meredith had to learn by doing.

 
In addition to using a camera.
 
“Yeah, I’m self-taught,” Meredith said with a laugh, reminiscing about buying his own camera eight months after starting his business due to the chaos associated with finding reliable photographers. 
 
Working behind a camera wasn’t the plan all along. Growing up in New York City in Queens, Meredith got interested in fashion while in high school, joining a production company as a model and serving as vice president of his school’s modeling club. After graduation, he went in somewhat of a different direction, joining the U.S. Army.
 
As a weapons specialist, Meredith had little time for pursuing a post-military career in the fashion industry — although he did date a model in Italy — but he knew he wanted a college education. 
 
Meredith researched colleges and found UNCW, which was ranked high as a military-friendly school. While stationed in Nashville, Tennessee, Meredith drove overnight to Wilmington to interview for admission to UNCW, turning around and driving straight back because he had Army work the next day.
 
He was accepted, and after his service to his country was up Meredith headed to the beach to pursue a degree in International Studies. While an undergrad Meredith got back into fashion and modeling, starting a style and modeling student association. The industry continued its pull throughout both his undergrad years and as a graduate student for an advanced degree in conflict management and resolution. 
 
Meredith’s experiences and education helped contribute to the weapons specialist-turned-entrepreneur’s decision to build a business around his passion for modeling and fashion. Aside from learning the nuances surrounding the creative aspects of his new endeavor, Meredith had to learn how to launch and run a business from scratch. 
 
He found UNCW’s CIE, and utilized its resources for developing a business plan and other elements associated with startups. Through his involvement with CIE he quickly picked-up networking as a key factor for business success, something he has leveraged to land gigs like Helzberg Diamonds and NYC Fashion Week.
 
Now finishing up his last semester as a graduate student, the 31-year-old Meredith is looking to further grow the pipeline of Wilmington models to major fashion outlets by moving his base of operations to New York City.
 
“Here in Wilmington, it’s just not a big enough market to get visibility. Being in the heart of the fashion industry is the best way for me to generate work for models back here,” he says.
 
For more information on Meredith Media Group, visit www.meredithmediagroup.com.

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